Too Many Communication Tools? You're Not Alone

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A decade ago, there were only a few online collaboration tools that people widely trusted. A lot has changed since then. Today, you can reach anyone with just a couple clicks of your mouse. Want to schedule a high-definition video call with a colleague? There are dozens of applications for you to choose from. Looking for documentation about a project? You’ll probably find it on one of the various knowledge-sharing platforms that your company utilizes. But this creates a unique challenge for software developers. In recent years, companies have sought to equip programmers with all of the tools they need. While this has been a positive change in many ways, it can also leave developers wondering where they can find vital information, who they can ask for clarification, and each person’s preferred communication tool. We spoke to a few developers about the challenges of using multiple communication and software documentation platforms. Let’s take a closer look at the obstacles that they highlighted. How Do Developers Find Information at Work? David Louie, a Junior Developer at JIBEI, says that the company’s internal wiki is his primary source of truth. Still, his process for navigating software documentation is not exactly straightforward. “If I can’t find something on our wiki, I try to investigate who would know where I can find what I need,” he adds. When it comes to using his company’s online collaboration tools, things get even more complicated. “I keep mental notes on which communication method each person prefers,” Louie continues. “For example, if I’m working with a manager from a different department, I have to include my manager—so I’m more likely to write an email than to use our internal chat tool.” Even when he identifies something relevant on the wiki, Louie says that it’s often difficult to be sure that it’s up-to-date. “There are a lot of moving parts within our organization, and people move on for a variety of reasons,” he says. “So when there’s overlapping information, it can be hard to figure out what’s correct, especially when your database doesn’t have timestamps.” How To Prevent Product Overload Michael Yin, a Senior Software Engineer at Slice, told us that he considers himself lucky. When we asked him about the most common software documentation issues that he encounters at work, he admitted that this isn't an issue for him. "My product managers are really good at making sure the resources I need are contained in our issue management system," Yin said. He knows he’s incredibly fortunate, and recent data shows that he’s in the minority. A recent Spiceworks/Lifesize survey found that IT professionals use an average of 4.4 different tools or platforms across three different providers. So, what happens when you get collaboration right? "I can find what I need," says Yin. "[It's] easy for me to find design or product specs in each issue description." Want to streamline communication tools for your developers? Learn more about Stack Overflow for Teams.

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